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Stir-fried red spinach

November 15, 2010

The Golden Dragon Asian Grocery is often a stopping point when I visit the South Melbourne Market. I like to check out their small vegetable section to see what’s on offer. I wasn’t disappointed at the weekend. There was a bunch of very striking leaves, dark green veined with red. I learned this was red spinach and for a mere $1.50, it was mine. 

“How do I cook it?” I asked as I handed my money over.

“Stir-fry it,” said the lady at the till. Then a few seconds later she added, “Put in some garlic. Then add some fish sauce.”

I washed my purchase and stripped the leaves off the larger stalks – I wasn’t sure if they’d be tough or stringy. However, I kept the thinner stalks and patted the red spinach with a towel to dry it a bit.

Cooking was simple – I just heated some grapeseed oil in a non-stick pan, threw in some smashed and roughly chopped garlic and tossed in the leaves, turning them till they were wilted. Then I sprinkled in one or two tablespoons of fish sauce and turned the vegetables into a serving bowl.

I’d roasted a small chicken and a few potato chunks and cooked up some dutch carrots and the red spinach was a very tasty accompaniment.

Since then I’ve consulted my Asian ingredients books and learned we were eating Amaranthus tricolor. It is also called Chinese spinach or een choy and has been used for generations in Asia. According to Carol Selva Rajah’s The Essential Guide to Buying and Using Authentic Asian Ingredients, the plant is referred to as the “red in snow” vegetable in ancient Chinese records. It can be eaten fresh, brined in salt or stir-fried.

“Indians and Malaysians use amaranth in stir-fries with garlic, chilli and shrimp paste, and thick coconut cream added at the end.”

It’s also used in soups or it can be made into a pesto by blending sliced leaves with garlic, green chilli and grated roasted coconut and seasoned with salt and lime juice then served with a vegetarian meal and plain, salted yoghurt.

Other names for this vegetable:

  • English - Chinese spinach, edible amaranth
  • Chinese - een choy
  • Filipino - kulitis
  • Indonesian - bayam
  • Japanese - hiyuna
  • Laotian - pak hom
  • Malaysian - bayam
  • Thai - pak khom hat
  • Vietnamese - rau den
  • Greek - vlita (green variety)

Link to The Essential Guide to Buying and Using Authentic Asian Ingredients below

The Essential Guide to Buying and Using Authentic Asian Ingredients

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